Friday, September 26, 2008

L'Shana Tova, for a year of peace

L'shana tova, for a good year

We say it every year at this time. We wish each other L'shana tova, the greeting for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It means not happy new year, but a good year. And often we add our specific wishes: for a year of health and peace, of family connections and shared times. Never have I heard anyone say, "a year of a 15% gain in the Dow" or "a year in which you get the promotion you deserve" or "a year in which your litigation practice (or consulting business or real estate ventures) prospers. "

Because Jewish tradition regards these days as the birthday of the world, we are aware of our ability to start anew: To wipe the slate clean, to make amends, ask forgiveness and get ourselves right with our families, friends, acquaintances, even those with whom we have disputes or differences.

And to do that, we have to listen. Perhaps that is one of the lessons that we take from the Torah verse that we read on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Abraham accedes to Sarah's demand to send Hagar and Ishmael away. He gives them food and water but these provisions run out, and mother and son wander in the wilderness, dying of thirst. And then we read, "Vayishma Elohim et kol ha na'ar": And God heard the cry of the boy. He opens Hagar's eyes to the location of a well, and she and Ishmael are saved.

In a perverse way, the tumultuous events of the past month are, like the blowing of the shofar, a warning to listen for the sounds of distress, to listen to the children, the elderly, the sick, the troubled. The more political and economic turmoil around us, the more we see clearly what's important: those around us, those whom we love, cherish and worry over, those in our immediate community and those in our wider community. Whatever the electoral outcome in November, whatever the state of the markets, the banks, the employment and home sales numbers, I'm imagining this is what many of us have in our hearts and on our lips when we say, L'shana tova.